Over 150,000 Americans Sign Manhattan Declaration

More than 150,000 people have so far signed the Manhattan Declaration, just a week after the document was unveiled.

And one of the document's drafters, Chuck Colson, hopes the number will soon reach a million so that Christians would put America on notice that they will not compromise their faith, no matter what.

Leaders from the evangelical, Orthodox and Catholic traditions released "The Manhattan Declaration: A Call of Christian Conscience" last week to stand firm on what they consider the three most foundational issues in society – the sanctity of life, the historic understanding of marriage, and religious liberty.

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It serves as a proclamation to the nation's leaders that they will not abandon or compromise their conscience on the three issues and as a call to the Christian church to unite in upholding the truths as followers of Jesus Christ.

Jim Daly, president and CEO of Focus on the Family and who was among the leaders at the release, has called the document "a historic development within the American church."

"The document is a fresh and lively presentation, a renewed rallying cry to those who have been engaged in this historic effort of spiritual and cultural conversion," Daly stated in an e-mail Wednesday. "This is not a manifesto for culture war; it is a prescription for cultural change."

"This is a document that exhorts us to champion Christian truths in a Christian manner," he asserted.

But not all Christian leaders have affixed their names to the declaration.

Well-known evangelical pastor John MacArthur of Grace Community Church in Sun Valley, Calif., believes the document "falls far short of identifying the one true and ultimate remedy for all of humanity's moral ills: the Gospel."

The Gospel, he said, is barely mentioned in the declaration.

He also doesn't agree with playing down the differences between evangelicals and the other faith traditions involved, such as Roman Catholics, whom he considers "purveyors of different gospels."

"Instead of acknowledging the true depth of our differences, the implicit assumption (from the start of the document until its final paragraph) is that Roman Catholics, Eastern Orthodox, Protestant Evangelicals and others all share a common faith in and a common commitment to the gospel's essential claims," he stated.

Supporting the document would "tacitly relegate the very essence of Gospel truth to the level of a secondary issue," MacArthur argued. "That is the wrong way – perhaps the very worst way – for evangelicals to address the moral and political crises of our time."

Pre-eminet evangelical Dr. R. Albert Mohler, Jr., also believes the Roman Catholic Church teaches doctrines that are unbiblical and doesn't sign documents between evangelicals and Catholics that attempt to establish common ground on theological issues.

But he added his name to the Manhattan Declaration, citing that the document is a limited statement of Christian conviction on three crucial issues and not a theological document.

"The Manhattan Declaration does not attempt to establish common ground on these doctrines," Mohler, president of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, stated in a recent commentary. "We remain who we are, and we concede no doctrinal ground."

The Manhattan Declaration, which was drafted last summer, comes as Christians feel the sanctity of human life, traditional marriage and freedom of religion and conscience are under assault. The original signers have stressed, however, that it is not a political statement and that the document could have been released 10 years ago or even 10 years later.

The message emphasized in the document is the same message Christians have been proclaiming for centuries but this is the first time Catholics, Orthodox believers and evangelicals have rallied together behind it, Dr. Timothy George, one of three leaders who drafted the document, noted last week.

Though the church leaders hope the time will not come when they would be compelled to practice civil disobedience, they say if American laws impinge on their conscience in any way (i.e. forced to conduct an abortion procedure), then they will not comply with the law in order to honor their own conscience.

"We pledge to each other, and to our fellow believers, that no power on earth, be it cultural or political, will intimidate us into silence or acquiescence," the declaration states. "It is our duty to proclaim the Gospel of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ in its fullness, both in season and out of season. May God help us not to fail in that duty."

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